Google Voice and Its Hatred of Shady DID Numbers

Post date: Oct 29, 2015 8:06:16 AM

A current project of mine is setting up a conf line. Getting a multi-line phone system off the ground on the cheap requires more than just a bit of knowledge with Asterisk. There's a fair amount of provisioning involved, and of course you want a local PSTN number for people to call. My goto service for local numbers is of course, Google Voice.

It was a simple plan:

  1. Get a free-ish SIP account with multiple extensions
  2. Get a free-ish random PSTN number from some provider
  3. Register random number with Google Voice
  4. Asterisk kung fu????
  5. Prof^h^h^h^h Conference!

Using free and/or low cost VOIP services to do cool things is exactly what this site is dedicated to. The trouble with free VOIP is that it is ripe for abuse by spammers and other shady characters. Google Voice offers free outgoing calls, which is a shady character's dream, so GV puts some undocumented features in place to keep the riffraff out. Offering a free number isn't shady in and of itself (Google Voice does it) but try telling that to Google Voice. Also these free numbers can play some shady billing games based on weird and esoteric telco peering rules.

I decided to go with Callcentric as a kind of one-stop-shop for a free SIP account and a free random New York State telephone number. Free quickly turned into free-ish when I needed 911 service on a line that can't make outgoing calls. The $1.50 monthly recovery fee is kind of stupid, but I guess everybody has to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's.

Now that my random NY number was FCC legal, it was time to register it as a forwarding phone with Google Voice. Having done this hundreds of times, I figured it was no big deal, but I was wrong. It's not documented anywhere that I can find, but free number services like IPKall and Callcentric are, according to the inner workings of Google Voice, shady. I can't find a document from Google that says it bans numbers it considers to be shady, and I was able to have GV call my shady number and confirm it's mine. In fact, the only indication that it isn't going to work is the ever-so-helpful error "There was an error with your request. Please try again."

I would get the error when selecting my Google Voice number. This error came up after I set up my CallCentric number as a forwarding phone and confirmed it.

I tried different browsers, clearing caches and cookies, and signing in and out. It wasn't until I saw this Google Product Forums post:

I was getting the same error but I was able to add a number.

This is what I did.

I removed the forwarding number that I had entered the first time. It seems that the system had an error with this number and it was causing the problem, it is not easy to remove the forwarding number, it did not show in the Setting panel, I did not have a "Phones" tab so, to delete the forwarding number I first selected Google Lite and I indicated that the forwarding number was a cell phone number even when it was not, then after I got a GV access number I got the "Phones" tab in the Settings panel, then I was able to remove the forwarding number and I logged out from GV.

I did login again and get a new GV number but this time when the GV asked me to enter my forwarding number I used a different number than the one I used the first time (using the same forwarding number that I used the first time was not working), then I was able to select a GV number. I then added the first forwarding number and GV let me add it, after I added the first forwarding number I removed the second temporary forwarding number that I used to get the GV number.

that I remembered this post on the Nerd Vittles Forums:

More likely a problem with the IPkall-GV interaction. It should be noted that Google doesn't like IPkall because of the cost (to them) of each call that is terminated.

To clarify the Google Product Forums post, you can set up a shady number as a forwarding phone. You just can't use that number to get a Google Voice number. If you use a non-shady number to set up your Google Voice number, you can then add your shady number as a forwarding phone, and possibly delete your shady number after your GV account is set up. I tried this with IPKall for setting up GV to ring my tablet and laptop, but I ended up going with a low cost DID from VOIP.ms instead.

My conf line isn't done yet, there is still the matter of building the Asterisk box to take the calls, but I have significantly more control over that :-)